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Full text of "The Gay Genius"

294                              THE GAY GENIUS

human misery on a national scale was unnecessary in the building of
even1 an imperial pleasure garden. Every piece of rock and every rare
flower in that garden cost some human lives. A reading of the descrip-
tive poem by Emperor Huitsung and other poems written by'high
ministers in praise of this fabulously beautiful palace garden, with
artificial hills and streams and rockeries, gives one a thrill down the
spine and a sense of high tragedy unequalled in the annals of Chinese
literature. The high tragedy consists in the fact that; the authors were
entirely unaware of it.

Compared with this second persecution of scholars, Wang Anshih's
dismissal of his political opponents was mere child's play. Szema
Kuang and Lu Kungchu were dead, but they were not to be allowecl
to lie in their graves in peace. Twice these deceased premiers were
degraded and deprived oŁ their ranks and honour. But still it was not
enough. It was formally proposed by Chang Chun that an order be
issued to dig open Szema Kuang's grave, smash his coffin, and wbiji
his corpse, as a warning to all disloyal subjects of the Emperor. In
the young Emperor's mind, Szema Kuang was the symbol of dis-
honesty, disloyalty, and iniquity of the Yuangyu regime. During the
discussion in the imperial audience, all the others approved. But there
was one man, Shii Chiang who kept silent. The young Emperor
studied him, and when the audience was over, he asked Shii to remain.

"Why didn't you say anything?" asked the Emperor.

"Because I believe it will serve no useful purpose and will remain
a blot upon the regime," was Shii's reply.

The order was not passed and Chang Chun did not have his wish,
but he did succeed in dealing out other punishments. The propertied
of Szema Kuang's family were confiscated, all official honours and
emoluments were taken away from his children, the tomb structures
built by the government in his honour were demolished, and the stone
inscription erected by the Empress Dowager was ground off. One
official even petitioned that the monumental masterpiece of history
written by Szema Kuang should be destroyed. Someone objected by
pointing out that the Emperor's father had himself contributed a preface
to this work. This unanswerable argument seemed to go home to the
idiot's head, and the standard history of China up to the Sung dynasty,
the Tsechih Tungchien, was spared. Defeated in his dream of "expos-
ing" and "whipping" the corpse of Szema Kuang, Chang Chun in-
sisted that everything that could be done to injure his family should
be done. Tseng Pu was the restraining influence upon Chang Chun
and the Tsai brothers. He said:

"I do not think we should set up the precedent of depriving an
official's children of official ranks and benefits. Don't forget that the
same thing may happen to our own children one day. Besides, the